SUDAN WATCH: ICC's Ocampo got it wrong: 5,000 people are not dying a month - there is no ‘ongoing genocide’ in Darfur, Sudan

Monday, March 09, 2009

ICC's Ocampo got it wrong: 5,000 people are not dying a month - there is no ‘ongoing genocide’ in Darfur, Sudan

The following excerpt is from Julie Flint's comment posted in the comments section of her analysis "Justice and Hunger" March 6, 2009 at Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur:
Five thousand people are not dying a month. There is no ‘ongoing genocide’. (The ICC judges said that, effectively telling Moreno Ocampo he got it wrong.) Not all aerial bombardment by the government is ‘genocidal’ and unprovoked. Let’s get it in perspective, stop talking about ‘saving’ Darfur and work out how best we can help them Darfurians to save themselves - especially now that our own leverage is so dramatically reduced.
Here is a copy of some responses to "Justice and Hunger". I have used red to highlight some of the text and added links within Julie's last comment, for future reference.
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From Ahmed Hassan:
March 7, 2009
Dear Julie Flint,
Thank you very much for your analysis. However, I believe we should not allow ourselves to be dragged into a game staged by the government of Sudan and which the regime knows exactly how to play.  El-Bashir is playing on the reactionary “pride” of the international community and of those affected humanitarian agencies, to buy a compromise.  Albeit the fact that those INGOs represent the “big players”, let us not to exaggerate facts regarding their contribution, in favor of the government game, by claiming that 60% of all humanitarian aid in Darfur will disappear in a matter of days if these INGO leave Sudan.

Let us just not forget that there are still more than 100 INGO operating in Darfur, all of them are American and European.  As long as the cry is for the victims in Darfur, who are in need for help, I don’t see why donors can not re-allocate funds to those operational NGOs or to national partner NGOs? 

I think the only obstacle that I can see is the “hurt pride’ of the kicked out INGOs as well as of the International donor community, and I believe this should be considered as small price for what the government is quoting as Moreno statements that he gathered his information mainly from INGOs.  Technically, I am sure someone will respond with comments about the capacity of the other INGOs and the National NGOs to handle the humanitarian operations in Sudan.

Again, I think the International donor community should prove their rhetoric about partnership and should invest in building the capacity of the national NGOs as part and parcel of the calls for empowering the civil society and bringing peace and democracy.

As an eye witness and as humanitarian worker with recent experience in Darfur, I don’t buy any argument that the level of the humanitarian emergency can not allow for a lengthy process of capacity building, there are enough INGO and local NGOs with adequate capacity to fill the gap caused by the expelling of the 13 INGOs and at the same time undergo a systematic process of capacity building. This could be quite an option to deprive the regime in Sudan from what it plan to use as a leverage to gain a compromise.

To a some extend also, I think we should start looking at things differently, that we are now dealing with two different but not separate issues; the arrest of Bashir, and the Darfur or Sudan Peace.

I like Alex’s statement that “The ICC pretends to be outside politics, representing principles on which no compromise is possible. The key word is ‘pretense’, to paraphrase David Kennedy: it is a nice fiction for the human rights community to believe that it is ’speaking truth to power’ and not actually exercising power.  The ICC arrest warrant is a real decision with real consequences in terms of lives saved and lost and the political life of a nation”. Again, even under this pretence, I don’t see how the ICC can step back from this situation.

Bashir arrest process and trial should go on without being questioned or doubted. The international community, on the other hand, should start working on issue number two, which is the primary issue, of peace in Sudan, and which I strongly believe that it could be more possible and more attainable without Bashir in the picture.

The International community on the other hand, should not be deceived with the staged demonstrations in support of Bashir, or with the silence of the rest of the political forces in Sudan.  The regime is keeping events for the time being by the sheer use of force and resources, however, once the International community decides on the right mode of actions, it will be surprising the support that would come from all the political forces in Sudan, now intimated and subdued by the ruling party.
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From Abdikarim Ali:
March 7, 2009
Ocampu’s excuse was that it couldn’t get any worse for the Darfurians; And now we know it really could and it is already in process. Now the UN and AU are on the ground in Darfur; what can they do?
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From Ibrahim Adam:
March 7, 2009
To Bob Williamson: And America takes it on itself to ’solve’ other countries’ problems it disagrees with by tearing-up, and using shock-and-awe bombing tactics (with huge civilian casualties and other likely war-crimes) by murdering other people living in said-country, and regulates it (the assault) with a sophisticated media and other communications tools apparatus. Touche…..Or it lets other allies do it and provides them with diplomatic cover.

Put simply, there’s no moral high ground for the US to occupy here: don’t search for it.

Agree with Ahmed Hassan’s incisive reality of the humanitarian situation, staffing and capacity on the ground; also agree with Julie’s sharp analysis completely and Alex’s posting on the day of the ICC announcement: “Yes, Alex, you’re right, it was a sad day for Sudan….”
I Adam
Country-Risk Consultant,
El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan
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From Sharon Silber:
March 7, 2009
What a terrible disaster. It really seemed that the difference between the hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur and the millions killed in South Sudan was due, not just to the difference of duration in years of the conflicts, but due to the lack of access of humanitarian groups in South Sudan since so many died not from the killing itself but from hunger, thirst and lack of medical care. I am very fearful of what this means for Darfur. What are you recommending now? What pressure can be harnessed? Are there specific economic sanctions that could be implemented?
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From Julie Flint:
March 7, 2009
Dear Ahmad Hassan,
You are absolutely right in that what we need to be doing now is trying to limit the damage done by the expulsion of the aid agencies. I appreciate that those expelled are a minority, but they represent more than half of the overall capacity of the Darfur relief operation. The assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs has said the suspension of their work means that ‘1.5 million have already lost access to health care, and over one million could soon lose access to potable water. The loss of MSF alone will leave more than 200,000 patients in rural areas without essential medical care. The departure of Oxfam Great Britain, which is the largest NGO providing water, sanitation, and hygiene services, is likely to leave 600,000 people in a precarious situation.’ She warned that nearly 1.1 million people may be without food at the next distribution time.
OCHA said (privately) yesterday that Kalma and Kass would run out of water ‘by tomorrow’ - i.e. today.

The impact of the arrest warrant is going to have a massive impact, and soon. And not only in Darfur. In the east, the Three Areas and perhaps even Chad, if the displaced are forced to leave the camps - either through hunger, or thirst, or actions of the government or its militias, or possibly even the rebel movements. Can UNAMID protect them?

I’m not an aid person, and pretend to no expertise there whatsoever, but I understand that funds cannot be reallocated quickly, nor new personnel recruited overnight. Even if they could be, not every INGO has the operational capacity of those that have been expelled. National NGOs, however courageous and committed, simply don’t have the capacity or the expertise for such a large and complex operation, that brought in the best cadres from all over the world. The transfer of capacity is difficult because assets have been confiscated. Management capacity can’t be transferred because staff have been ordered to leave the country.

There seems to be an emerging consensus that it is more useful, in the short term, for the expelled NGOs to put their energy into helping the remaining NGOs to scale up their activities to prevent loss of life rather than putting all their energies into lobbying for the Sudan government to reverse its decision. And I would imagine a priority has to be mapping what remains, and where, and determining how the need that has been created can be best and quickest addressed.

John Smith says ‘the Prosecutor is not a diplomat and should not be expected to act as such.’ Fair enough; he is only doing what the UNSC asked him to do. But he is required, by the Rome Statue, to take the interests of the victims of the account. And running out of water, food and health care, in the middle of a meningitis epidemic, is not in their interests. This government has been in power for 20 years - expect Bashir to organise one hell of a party on June 30 this year - and we have no excuse for not knowing how it works. It is constantly looking for pretexts to erect obstacles in front of humanitarians. This is a tragedy foreseen, and avoidable. I’m not against accountability at the highest level for the crimes committed in Darfur. Far from it. But with no-one to protect the victims, this is not the time.
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From Julie Flint:
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Dear Sharon,
Your diagnosis of the difference between the South and Darfur is spot on. Throughout twenty years of war, most Southern Sudanese never saw any relief. Most war-displaced Darfurians have received a fair amount.

It’s so much easier to know what not to do than what to do at this point, when we have so dramatically limited our options. Don’t impose a no-fly zone, for starters, since most aid goes - or more correctly now, went - by air and must again. Don’t bomb. Nick Kristof, who a few days ago told us that our fears that aid agencies would be expelled were ‘overblown’, now wants us to bomb the Sudan air force. And the same government that has cut the lifeline of more than a million Darfurians without batting an eyelid will take that sitting down? Pull the other one. De-escalate. Don’t escalate. Get off the high moral ground into the dust and mud where displaced Darfurians live. Put yourself in the place of a mother who has been under canvas for five years, whose child has meningitis, malaria or diarrhea, and not a doctor or nurse in sight now. Prioritize the life of that child. There are hundreds of thousands of them, most already beginning to feel the effects of Bashir’s arrest warrant.

The immediate challenge is to respond to the gaping holes in service provision - NGOs estimate that 70% of humanitarian service delivery to 4.7 million people in Darfur will be affected - and to try somehow to utilize (and if necessary protect) the 2,570 national staff rendered jobless. The 200 international staff have until 9 March to leave Sudan. Sudanese law states that NGOs should have 30 days to challenge the revocation of registration, but the government has dismissed this, citing ‘national emergency’ and ’state security’. I see no moderates on the horizon, no ripe prospects for peace.

Somehow international organizations have to find a way to dialogue with the government - criminalized in its entirety by the ICC Prosecutor - at a time when it appears that those who want a degree at least of cooperation have been silenced or pushed aside. In the immediate term, this may have to be by proxy - through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the African Union. The CPA cannot be allowed to collapse. HAC Commissioner Dr. Hassabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman has said more NGOs are under investigation for collaboration with the ICC and will be expelled if a connection is found. Ever since Moreno Ocampo applied for the arrest warrant, activists in the US especially have been hailing this as a breakthrough for peace and a means of leverage on the government. I don’t get this. I see a dwindling of peace hopes and vastly diminished leverage.

Security in the camps must be a major concern. The ICC’s outreach was poor, and the arrest warrant against Bashir seemed to many like a magic bullet. (Even if he were, somehow, arrested, would the regime veer into democracy? Almost certainly not.) There is a need for urgent contacts with the rebel leaders who have influence in the camps - especially Abdel Wahid - to calm rather than inflame the situation and do what they can to stabilize it. JEM must be warned not to seize this moment to make another military push.

Economic sanctions? Would they not affect ordinary Sudanese? What I am hearing indicates that the main concern ordinary Sudanese have about the Bashir warrant is the effect it will have on their economy. Make things tougher on that front and risk increased support for Bashir, I think.

Finally, start telling it like it is. (In for a penny in for a pound.) Distortion of facts, purple prose and exaggerated rhetoric, with a liberal sprinkling of Sudanophobia, have all conspired to create the current dead end - Bashir dances while Darfurians risk starving again, en masse. Five thousand people are not dying a month. There is no ‘ongoing genocide’. (The ICC judges said that, effectively telling Moreno Ocampo he got it wrong.) Not all aerial bombardment by the government is ‘genocidal’ and unprovoked. Let’s get it in perspective, stop talking about ‘saving’ Darfur and work out how best we can help them Darfurians to save themselves - especially now that our own leverage is so dramatically reduced.

Then we can worry about putting Sudan’s leaders in handcuffs. They’ll still be there in a few years’ time.
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Grenade victim

Grenade victim

Photo: After a grenade exploded, Bakit Musa, 8, lost his hands, one eye and the skin on half of his face. (Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times March 4, 2009) 

From Kristof's blog at March 7, 2009
Your comments on my Darfur column
My Sunday column is about the aid workers being expelled from Darfur. Surprisingly, the United Nations reacted with rather more vigor than the Obama administration, especially at first. Ban Ki-moon issued a tough statement and has been busy calling up leaders in the region to try to get this reversed, and the heads of WFP and other agencies made strong statements as well. In contrast, the initial State Department comment was pathetic, although it was strengthened to a condemnation on Friday. Obama, Biden, Clinton were all tough on Darfur when they were in the Senate and when they were running for office, so let’s hope they aren’t backing down now that they are in office.

Let me also try to clarify something. There are still many aid workers who have not been expelled (World Vision is one of the biggest groups that remains in place), and of course they will try to pick up the slack. But they won’t be able to, except at the margins, for a couple of reasons. First they have their own missions, and everybody is understaffed. Second, Sudan security officials have closed the offices and confiscated the equipment of the expelled NGO’s, and you can’t do a food distribution if you don’t have lists of people who are supposed to get aid; a communications technician for a group that remains can’t shift to treating children with diarrhea, particularly if the clinic and medications have been confiscated. In some areas, the camp managers were expelled, so there is no longer anyone who even knows what is needed. Third, there is a wide variation in the regional impact of the expelled NGO’s. For example, almost all the aid groups in West Darfur were expelled, but a World Vision staff member in South Darfur can’t do anything to save lives in West Darfur.

Bashir surprised most of his own ministers with the decision (the first vice president didn’t know of it), and they seem to have mixed views. Bashir has been very tough in meetings in the capital, but he was also very tough on how he would never allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur, and of course he did. The key was international pressure, and that’s what we desperately need right now.

Your comments?
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Postscript from Sudan Watch: Here is a copy of a noteworthy comment posted to Kristof's commentary copied here above.  There are more from the 50+ comments posted that I would have liked to include here (especially one re British involvement over 100 years) but I can't re-read them all, must close and sleep now.  Maybe more, tomorrow.  Bye for now.
While in your replies to comments you do acknowledge some of the complexities of the situation, your original column was just an artificial and simplistic ‘white hat/black hat’ distortion. You can’t just go visit a place for a few months and think that you know what should happen there better than the locals.

I still remember your suggested ’solution’ to the issue of Tibet’s status which was equally simplistic. No element of that solution has come to pass, ever will, or should. It was a very typical case of the perils of half-understanding a situation, which seems to be a specialty of yours.

These neo-imperialist attempts to solve other nations’ problems for them without their consent are just as harmful coming from well-meaning and intelligent liberals such as yourself as they are from incompetent noecons, if not more so. The Third World is rightly hypersensitive to this in the aftermath of Iraq, and any attempt to escalate the issue, particularly along military lines as you suggest, would fracture the world order and cause immeasurable damage compared to which Iraq would be a walk in the park. American pilots shot down enforcing a no-fly zone by Sudanese using Chinese antiaircraft weaponry helped by Chinese advisers, and locked up in a Sudanese jail? Peacekeeping troops from the A.U. fighting UN troops from Europe? Sudan bombing French airbases in Chad? The nightmare scenarios are endless. The Chinese would veto any Security Council action, and rightly so, but that still leaves a lot of scope for the Americans and Europeans acting independently to cause an enormous amount of damage.

The comprehension of Americans, in particular, of other countries and how they work (as opposed to how we would like them to work) is just about zero, and you unfortunately are no exception.

The best hope in this situation would have been to push all sides in the peace talks to the negotiating table and towards a solution, but the ICC’s boneheaded action has removed all incentives for any party to negotiate. The rebels hope the international community will do their dirty work for them, and the government now no longer has any scenario in which the international community recognizes their rule, and hence has absolutely nothing to gain from negotiating and nothing to lose by walking away. Nice job (not)! This one is going to get ugly, and you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

— Martin Mellish
Well said, Mr Mellish, brilliant comment. Loved the lines that I have highlighted with red!



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